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Leading Cuban Dissident Arrested

August 16, 1999

HAVANA (AP) _ A Cuban dissident who recently led a 40-day hunger strike to protest the detention of alleged political prisoners has been arrested, his family said Monday.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, 38, was arrested Saturday afternoon after presenting a lecture on nonviolent civil disobedience, according to his wife, Elsa Morejon. The family has had no contact with him since then.

Three other dissidents _ Alejandro Chan, Marcel Valenzuela and Eddie Aguilar _ also were arrested Saturday, but then released a day later, according to independent journalist Angel Polanco, who was detained with the group.

There was no comment from the Cuban government and no official confirmation of the arrests. The communist government says it holds no political prisoners, only common criminals.

Polanco said the dissidents were arrested by police as they were about to hold a ceremony at a monument to Cuban independence hero Jose Marti in Pedro Betancourt, 75 miles east of Havana.

Police told the group they did not have permission for any ceremony, he said.

Polanco and the four dissidents were taken to a jail, where Polanco said he saw one officer beat Biscet and another burn his arm with a cigar. Biscet shouted ``God loves you!″ at the police during the assault, Polanco said.

The dissidents were transferred to a Havana prison late Saturday, while Polanco said he was taken to a security house.

Polanco said he and three others were released Sunday evening, but that Biscet continued to be held at the Cien Aldavo prison in Havana.

Biscet, who is president of the human rights group the Lawton Foundation, ended a 40-day hunger strike on July 24. The fast was organized to demand respect for human rights and the release of people Biscet and other dissidents say are political prisoners.

The protest had involved several small Cuban groups across the island.

The Democracy Movement, a Miami-based Cuban exile organization, denounced the arrest of Biscet.

``This is something that we expected the Cuban government was going to do,″ group president Ramon Saul Sanchez said by telephone. ``We are very concerned because they didn’t do anything significant to repress the fast, but we expected them to take some steps against the dissidents once the international attention wasn’t focused on them.″

The Democracy Movement said this was the 19th time Biscet has been arrested.

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